Promotional offers push Suzuki to Q1 success
Sport bike sales up 50%; ATV sales double 2011 mark
Larry Vandiver isn’t aware of any powersports OEM that has offered zero percent A.P.R. financing for five years on new unit purchases.
What he now knows, however, is that he’s glad American Suzuki enacted the free money offering. Thanks to the manufacturer’s Countdown Sales Event in February and March and the ensuing Suzuki Zero in April and May, Suzuki posted exceptional results in the first quarter.
“I don’t think there’s ever been zero percent financing in motorcycle,” said Vandiver, sales and marketing senior director. “Last year we had 1.99 percent, and that might have been closest to zero anyone’s ever been. This year we decided we needed something to get things kicked off.”
The initial promotion helped American Suzuki post first quarter results not seen in recent years from the company. Q1 sales figures among Suzuki sport bikes showed 51.9 percent growth compared to the same period a year ago. Dual-sport sales rose 42.7 percent compared to Q1 2011.
With bikes like the GSX-R, DR-Z400S and V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure, Suzuki is positioned to be the market share leader in both the sport bike and dual sport segments, Vandiver said. Suzuki dual sport bikes, bolstered by the introduction of the 650 ABS Adventure touring model, sales saw a 48 percent increase for the month of March year-over-year, and 28 percent growth in Q1 2012 compared to the year-ago period.
“The buyer in the dual-purpose category is a little older, wants to ride 350-500 miles in a weekend,” Vandiver said. “And they want to ride year-round, so they want the luggage, the boxes, and to be able to take rain gear and cold weather with them. Plus they’re riding on all kinds of terrain. It’s been a big deal in Europe for a long time, and I think it’s going to continue to grow here.”
In ATVs, Suzuki more than doubled its Q1 2011 sales, with a 104 percent increase in ATV sales in Q1 2012.
The financing program is offered by Sheffield Financial, a Division of BB&T Financial, FSB, as well as GE Capital.
“The dealers got so excited about it and it was driving so much floor traffic that we decided to keep the momentum rolling,” Vandiver said.
Vandiver points to a three-pronged lineup that helped American Suzuki to its Q1 success: 1. product; 2. product in the right place; and 3. promotion. The weather? Well, that didn’t hurt, either.
“We were fortunate — that doesn’t always happen,” Vandiver said of the weather. “We also had better figures with job growth and with the Dow. Some of those things all help. But our success really comes from product. That’s what our market is about.”
The promotion also helped historically credit-challenged buyers in the motocross segment. Suzuki’s RMZ series saw a 31 percent sales increase in the quarter compared to 2011.
“We’ve all fought this economy and fought some of the ills that have happened to all of us. It’s exciting to be able to see business stimulate,” Vandiver said. “I think we pulled a lot of good credit-type buyers out.”
Vandiver was quick to praise dealers for their enthusiastic reception of the promotions.
“We had to create a promotion that gives the customer a call to action — something to get him off the sofa and down to the dealership, and say ‘I can buy that,’” Vandiver said. “As one dealer told me, ‘When I run out of everything to tell the guy, here’s how I close him — I say ‘Dude, it’ll never get any cheaper than zero!
“Dealers got behind the promotion, building their own displays and putting up our POP material, moving product into a prominent position. When you’re out there selling as a dealer, you want to strike while the iron’s hot.”